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Boys of Blur Library Binding – April 8, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5–7—Charlie's in foreign territory when his stepfather brings the family back to Taper, FL, to attend the funeral of his high school football coach. Charlie immediately finds himself adopted as a cousin by a relative of his stepfather and, almost as quickly, caught up in the strange customs and eldritch history of the football-obsessed towns that surround the sugarcane fields. Wilson has invented timeless creatures embodying good and evil. A mysterious and terrifying "Mother" reanimates the recent dead, turning them into "Gren"—repellent, odiferous beings that pursue the boys through the muck, canals, and cane fields. The presence of Gren causes humans to think hateful thoughts. On the side of goodness, there's an odd, ghostly man wearing a helmet and wielding a rusty sword and Mother Wisdom, the football coach's widow who has magical healing powers. Additional layers of complications are provided by the appearance of Charlie's own father who'd abused Charlie and his mother before their divorce. There is also a half-brother Charlie never knew existed. Mixed in with the family drama and supernatural elements is some football. The atmosphere Wilson creates is darkly compelling, and the writing is poetic. The mythology, however, is more a net of allusions than a fully formed cosmology. Several references to Beowulf are made throughout the text, though how it directly relates to this contemporary story is unclear. Lyrical language, literary connections, and shifting points of view may leave the intended audience unwilling to wade through the muck with Charlie.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Taper, Florida, football runs through the town’s veins like children through the sugarcane fields—fast as the rabbits they’re chasing. When Coach Wiz dies, 12-year-old Charlie Reynolds and his family travel to Taper for the funeral, and Charlie feels the tug of the land beneath his feet. He and his cousin Cotton take off through the cane until they reach a mound rising between the fields and outlying swampland, topped with a chalk stone, a dead snake, and a mysterious man wearing a helmet and carrying a rusty sword. In the swamp, a mystical sense pervades, and the boys learn of an ancient, evil tribe threatening the town and what they must do to keep it in check. Wilson brings the stuff of folklore to life in this novel, as elements of Beowulf, voodoo, and zombie mythos combine with the everyday to fantastic effect. The story moves at heart-pounding speeds, furthered by magic and mystery and rooted in ideas of familial bonds and self-discovery. In the end, it is a tale of one boy’s daring quest to save his family and to learn what it means to fly. Grades 3-6. --Julia Smith --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 0680 (What's this?)
  • Library Binding: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449816745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449816745
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)

More About the Author

N. D. Wilson is the author of Leepike Ridge, a children's adventure story, and 100 Cupboards, the first installment in a multi-world fantasy series. He enjoys high winds, milk, and night-time. He received his Masters degree from Saint John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, is the managing editor of Credenda/Agenda magazine and is also a Fellow of Literature at New Saint Andrews College. His writing has appeared in Books & Culture, The Chattahoochee Review, and Esquire

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I like a kid's book with ambition. It's all well and good to write one about magic candy shops or goofy uncles or simpering unicorns or what have you. The world is big and there's room for every possible conceivable type of book for our children you can imagine. But then you have the children's book authors that aim higher. Let's say one wants to write about zombies. Well, that's easy enough. Zombies battling kids is pretty straightforward stuff. But imagine the chutzpah it would take to take that seemingly innocuous little element and then to add in, oh I dunno, BEOWULF. N.D. Wilson is one of those guys I've been watching for a very long time. The kind of guy who started off his career by combining a contemporary tale of underground survival with The Odyssey ("Leepike Ridge"). In his latest novel, "Boys of Blur", Wilson steps everything up a notch. You've got your aforementioned zombies as well as a paean to small town football, an economy based on sugar cane harvesting, spousal abuse, and rabbit runs. It sounds like a dare, honestly. "I dare you to combine these seemingly disparate elements into a contemporary classic". The end result is a book that shoots high, misses on occasion, but ultimately comes across as a smart and action packed tale of redemption.

There is muck, then sugarcane, then swamps, then Taper. The town of Taper, to be precise, where 12-year-old Charlie Reynolds has come with his mother, stepfather, and little sister to witness the burial of the local high school football coach. It's a town filled with secrets and relatives he never knew he had, like homeschooled Cotton, his distant cousin, with whom he shares an instant bond. Together, the two discover a wild man of the swamps accompanied by two panthers and a sword.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Casey Griffith on April 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I am a nine year old boy and I like mysteries, fantasy, historical fiction, stories in modern settings, and classics.Some authors I like are Brian Jacques, Roald Dahl, Rick Riordan, and Jules Verne. I got only one copy of this book when I read it, so my mom and I shared it. We read it in three nights and we both liked it a lot. I would totally recommend it.

It was very exciting because a lot of people's lives were about to be ruined because of one monster. The book had good (and funny) characters who would risk their lives to save another's. But the risk usually was pretty terrifying. The story was also scary at times, but I could handle it.

I recommend this book to all those who love the books I like to read. I think N.D. Wilson wrote a great novel.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By GMBurrahobbit on April 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
"Stay right with your brothers. Stay right with the Lord. Hit like thunder, and run like the devil's nightmare."

Have you ever been chased? Really chased? I have run from Grendel. I have run from the Hound of the Baskervilles. I have never run from anything as fast as I ran from the devils of Floridian darkness in Boys of Blur.

N. D. Wilson's lean, fierce book (his first stand-alone novel since Leepike Ridge) tells the story of young Charlie and his step-second cousin "Cotton" who race after ancient secrets buried in the sugarcane realm of the Everglades. And let me tell you: this adventure of boys, brothers, swamps, stink, muck, and monsters grips from the get-go and never lets up. Ever. It is SCARY fast. I read it in less than three hours and felt like I'd had a shot of epinephrine straight to the heart.

Cramming in some of his best, punchiest prose yet, Wilson gleefully shoplifts all the best stuff out of Beowulf, weaving powerful father-hunger throughout in thick, double strands and giving the climax the Christ figure which the pagans so longed to see break the cycle of Cain-lust. From start to finish, it's a remarkably *neat* tale with death and resurrection and everything in between all in the right spot -- but not the way you're expecting and definitely not so easily that you aren't absolutely sick to your stomach with fear Wilson will forget he believes in happy endings.

The book is so packed and intense, in fact, that there's almost enough for a trilogy here -- except three books would defeat the point. The point is to run. Fast. We are racing mud. We are racing murder. We are racing curses and envy and the mother of all evil.

I'm also stoked to say this happens to be the best of Wilson's novels for immediate movie adaptation.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Julia on October 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I am a veteran (20 years) sixth grade teacher and was so excited for this book. Football, southern culture, a hint of the supernatural, rabbit-chasing sugar cane runners, a tremendously promising family story...there was so much to offer. However, after reading it I feel deeply reluctant to recommend it to any of my students.It felt like an author with a superb realistic fiction story, a well-realized family and setting, read Beowulf and suddenly decided he needed to rewrite it for kids. The book veered sharply away from its promising roots and suddenly it was confusing, disjointed, and incoherent. I agree with the librarian in the editorial reviews above who said, "The mythology, however, is more a net of allusions than a fully formed cosmology. Several references to Beowulf are made throughout the text, though how it directly relates to this contemporary story is unclear. Lyrical language, literary connections, and shifting points of view may leave the intended audience unwilling to wade through the muck with Charlie."
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